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Rosie: The Rosemary Clooney Story, biographical film, biography, review, biopic

Rosie: The Rosemary Clooney Story (1982) 

Aired just a week after the release of Frances, this biopic takes a more sympathetic look at psychiatry’s treatment of a troubled star. Observing the clearly distraught Rosemary Clooney poring over press clippings and publicity photos, consulting doctors provide a Cliff notes summary of her life before gently coaxing more details from the singer herself. What follows in flashback is a mind-numbingly stilted retelling of Clooney’s life which is occasionally interrupted by a return to the counselling session. Despite his kindly disposition the psychiatrist ignores Clooney’s pleas to bring a stop to proceedings, a plea no doubt echoed by viewers of this film.

Assisted by montages of altered black and white stills, Christmas card photos and doctor's prescriptions, Clooney’s life unfolds from her early days singing with her sister for the Tony Pastor big band through to her solo success in radio, film and television. By her side for much of this journey, in name if not in spirit, is her (first and second) husband José Ferrer. A serial adulterer with a penchant for quoting Shakespeare at the most inopportune times, Ferrer’s cheating ways, combined with an ever-growing family, a demanding work schedule and an interfering mother, lead Clooney to seek refuge in Valium, Percodan and various other medications.

The possibility of a mental breakdown was apparent from the start. When concerns are raised about Clooney’s tendency to take on too much, they are inevitably followed by ominous silences, lest their significance be missed. Similarly ham-fisted is the depiction of the illness itself. While Sondra Locke has some success portraying the singer's youthful exuberance, playing off Penelope Milford's nice turn as her sister Betty, Clooney's unravelling is less convincing. Conveyed by the actress throwing herself face first on a bed, having a bad hair day while in hospital and screaming conspiracy theories down the phone, the dramatic demands of the role seem to only highlight Locke's limitations. Not that she is helped one iota by Jackie Cooper's lame direction.

The film concludes with Clooney performing at a London concert in 1978. She also supplies the singing voices for both Sondra Locke and Penelope Milford, effectively harmonising with herself in the earlier scenes.

Sondra Locke, Rosemary Clooney, Tony Orlando, Jose Ferrer, Penelope Milford
Sondra Locke
Sondra Locke

as Rosemary Clooney

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Tony Orlando
Tony Orlando

as José Ferrer

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Penelope Milford
Penelope Milford

as Betty Clooney

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Joey Travolta
Joey Travolta

as Dante DiPaolo

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fact check, factcheck, fact vs fiction, inaccuracies, true story

Biopic does not disclose That Rosemary Clooney and Jose Ferrer married each other twice. Nor does it portray Clooney’s extramarital affair with Nelson Riddle.

Casting of Sondra Locke and Tony Orlando does not convey the significant age difference between Rosemary Clooney and Jose Ferrer.

Betty Clooney, Joey Travolta, Dante DiPaolo, Eli Rill, Mitch Miller
Guy Pastor, Tony Pastor, Tamar Cooper, Edith Head
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